Cape Town’s natural setting never stops changing and impacting on mesmerised visitors. Clouds sweep down the granite face of Table Mountain, Atlantic breakers crash onto soft beaches, and the blazing African sun ignites towering palms and vivid hibiscus.
Cape Town has soul. Africa’s most passionately creative city has become a playground for artists, designers, chefs and entrepreneurs.
With the weak Rand and low prices, British favourite hotel, the flamingo pink Belmond Mount Nelson, is booked well into autumn, flights are full, everyone wants some of the stardust.
The Mount Nelson is the antithesis of the international shiny hip hotel reeking of new money and glitz. It sits comfortably in its history and has an air of cultured sophistication, the staff and return guests forming a warm family. There isn’t another hotel in the world where I feel more welcomed and cherished. We’re all one here, is the overall feeling, down to Noku remembering my style of breakfast, a lounger laid out for my morning swim, and even the two resident Egyptian geese waiting to do our laps together.
Set in sublime grounds modelled on classic English gardens, with oak trees and glorious white-fringed herbaceous borders, it has the air of colonial England still intact.
I sunned myself like a contented lizard at the cottage pool, buried in those good books I’d been storing up all year.
As a foodie I was in awe of La Colombe, which sits above a glorious valley of green and purple vineyards and forests, against the backdrop of Table Mountain. The dishes are astounding, each mouthful so lush and flavoursome, with a chilled Uma Mira wine I fell in love with. Two days after dinner we went back for lunch and lovely French manageress, Jennifer, had the wine waiting at our table with a real touch of elan.
Cape Town still has that messy character of change, a mix of Africa and a European outpost. It’s a haphazard charm and emerging hip that is quirky, vibrant and exciting.
Restaurants like Grand Cafe & Beach, and Bombay Bicycle are of that ilk, super cool, and bursting with imagination.
I spent my meal at Grande Cafe with my toes in the soft white sand, watching the moon rise over the waves, eating delicious fish. Bombay Bicycle is magical in candlelight, a kind of Aladdin’s cave with swings, hanging drums and a clanging 2 for 1 bell ringing out at 10pm. I loved it, but did ask the waitress if I was the oldest person there and she replied sheepishly, You’ve obviously got a very young spirit.
There’s almost a heady spirit in Cape Town today. It offers a sense of freedom and creativity that many European cities have lost, past their prime and struggling in faded glory.
Cape Town’s Jewish community is strong and welcoming, recently putting on its first Jewish Literary Festival, with a thriving Holocaust Centre taking educational programmes to high schools in outlying areas examining the Holocaust, racism and prejudice. The Mount Nelson is round the corner from the Jewish Museum and the hotel actually held the first Jewish service in the city in mid 19th Century.
I braved the climb to the top of Lion’s Head over several hours with a friend’s son who virtually jogged ahead of me and refused to entertain sighing or flagging. The views kept changing, ever more spectacular, with a real sense of bonhomie amongst climbers some of whom bring their dogs in backpacks or let them scramble up. The extraordinary thing is this is the centre of the city, and back down you’re in a restaurant minutes later. We went to Rumbullion in Camps Bay, a real favourite for families on a Sunday afternoon where you arrive for lunch and stagger home in the evening. Cockerels strut up to your table, kids are playing and there’s a kind of joy in the air. The food is fresh, casual, picnic style in the sun.
Back at the Mount Nelson I loved to flop into the classic Planet Bar, and then move to fine dining at Planet Restaurant, which reminds me of a nocturnal scene in an old movie, with its starry carpets, and tinged blue atmosphere. It is elegant, deliciously fresh, with seamless service.
You find yourself sitting at the next table to Idris Elba or Daniel Radcliffe, because the city is suddenly full of British and Hollywood stars making new movies here.
Round the corner is the best Japanese Cape Town has. Kyoto is so peaceful and spa-like, you almost expect a massage in between the light, piquant courses. I loved the delicacy of their seaweed and mustard cabbage, and the fresh fish from the cold Atlantic is amongst the best in the world.
Don’t miss Mano’s along the Green Point Rd where you sit outside in the warm evening breeze on a perfect Cape Town evening, in a buzzy, exuberant atmosphere and eat really well. Mano’s is an institution packed with CapeTonians who appreciate its home made, simple dishes and gorgeous waitresses!
This great city built on a bay has preserved its historic buildings, wooden houses and Dutch gabled architecture, and shunned chain stores and bland tourist traps.
Walk down Long Street, up Bree, wander into old fashioned record shops, lively coffee bars, and my favourite jewellery shop, Linde, on Shortmarket street, where they really care about giving you personal, top service and have innovative designs.
For white born Africans the one thing worse than staying in the burning issues of crime and corruption .. Is leaving. And what place on earth doesn’t have it’s major problems? The one leg walks towards the west while the other remains in the third world’s beating sun, sea and mountains. I’m already booking my next trip-that is, if I can get on the plane.”
By ROSLYN SULCAS NOV. 29, 2015
Yolanda Sonnabend worked in ballet and opera and had a career as a painter and portraitist.
LONDON — Yolanda Sonnabend, a theater designer and painter who had a strong influence on the work of the British choreographer and Royal Ballet director Kenneth MacMillan, died on Nov. 9 in London. She was 80.
Her brother, Dr. Joseph A. Sonnabend, said the cause was septic shock. Ms. Sonnabend had been treated for dementia.
Ms. Sonnabend, who was born in southern Africa, was still a student at the Slade School of Fine Art in London when she came to public attention with the first ballet she designed — “A Blue Rose,” by Peter Wright, in 1957.
Her first work with MacMillan and the Royal Ballet came in 1963, when she created sets and costumes for his “Symphony.” But it was only from 1975 that she began to collaborate closely with him, designing sets and costumes for 10 of his ballets over the next decade.
MacMillan used Ms. Sonnabend for his more abstract, one-act works, rather than for full-length narrative ballets, but she designed opulent versions of ballet classics for others, including Anthony Dowell’s productions of “Nutcracker,” “Cinderella” and a gothic, fantastical “Swan Lake,” which divided critics but remained in the Royal Ballet’s repertoire from 1987 until this year.
Ms. Sonnabend also designed opera and theater productions, including “Antony and Cleopatra” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1999. Her “beguiling” staging for that production, the critic Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian, “effortlessly contains both Rome and Alexandria.”
Ms. Sonnabend also worked in television and film, notably on Derek Jarman’s “The Tempest,” a 1979 feature film set in a decaying mansion.
“Design is not decoration — decoration is just added on,” Ms. Sonnabend said in a 2006 interview with the dance critic Ismene Brown for the Royal Opera House magazine. “Design is visualization of emotion.”
That conception was well-matched to MacMillan’s intensely expressive, often disturbing pieces. Her settings for them included Japanese-influenced parchment screens (for his “Rituals”), translucent fiberglass panels (“Requiem”), a wire-fenced yard (“Playground”) and a luxurious garden alternating with a concentration camp (“Valley of Shadows”).
Yet she acknowledged in the Opera House interview that her work with MacMillan could make her hunger to create something less austere, as she did with the costumes for Natalia Makarova’s “La Bayadère.”
“It was a joy to turn from all MacMillan’s damaged children to something that could all just be pretty,” she said.
Yolanda Pauline Tamara Sonnabend was born on March 26, 1935, in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), to a German father and a Russian mother. She grew up in “a house full of art objects, good design and music,” The Guardian said in its obituary.
Ms. Sonnabend studied art in Geneva before enrolling at the Slade School, where she studied under the Greek-born designer Nicholas Georgiadis. (He first worked with MacMillan on “Danses Concertantes” in 1955 and had a highly successful career as a stage designer. He died in 2001.)
It was Mr. Georgiadis who recommended Ms. Sonnabend to Mr. Wright for “A Blue Rose,” which introduced her to the ballet world and more specifically MacMillan, who was seeking innovative designs for his expressionist, often psychologically fraught pieces.
Ms. Sonnabend went on to design most of his best-known works during a fertile period, 1975 to 1986, among them “Requiem,” “My Brother, My Sisters” and “Different Drummer.” (This last collaboration involved a rare falling-out, after MacMillan decided at the last minute to scrap her scenery designs, though he kept the costumes.)
Ms. Sonnabend developed a certain understanding with MacMillan in their working relationship.
He liked “to feel he’d generated the designs, though he didn’t tell you much in advance,” she was quoted as saying in Jann Parry’s biography of MacMillan, “Different Drummer” (2009).
She added: “I’d do lots and lots of sketches, listening to the music — and then do as my assistant told me: ‘Put the one you really like face down on the floor, so Kenneth will pick it up and think he found it.’ ”
In the Opera House interview she commented: “It’s a very strange and intimate thing a designer has with a choreographer. It’s like the portrait painter and the sitter — you give each other a kind of power. The choreographer uses you, because you have a different way of seeing.”
MacMillan, who was knighted by the British crown, died in 1992.
Ms. Sonnabend had a parallel career as a painter and portraitist; the physicist Stephen Hawking, the actor and theater director Steven Berkoff and MacMillan were among her subjects. Nine of her pieces are in the collection of London’s National Portrait Gallery, and a major retrospective of her work was held at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1985-86.
She also taught theatrical design at the Slade and at the Camberwell and Wimbledon art schools in England while maintaining a lively social life at her house in North London, which guests described as stuffed with cats, half-built sets, masks, fabrics, dolls and obscure objects.
Her brother, Joseph, a noted AIDS researcher, is her only immediate survivor.